Since the Bruins failed to address their one glaring need of signing a capable defenseman at the start of free agency, they are left with limited options and signing an unrestricted free agent seems to be the way to go. Don Sweeney and Cam Neely must find a diamond-in-the-rough type of player in the remaining UFA group of defensemen now that big names Keith Yandle (6 years, 44 million with the Panthers), Alex Goligoski (5 years, 27 million with the Coyotes), and Jason Demers (5 years, 22.5 million with the Panthers) have already inked large deals. The B’s must bring in another blue-liner if they want any shot at a playoff spot this upcoming season so with that said, here are a few available defensemen that could fill the void on the backend and be relatively cheap options at the same time.
James Wisniewski: The 31 year old had a rough season last year after he blew out his knee just minutes into the first game, causing him to miss the remainder of the year with the Hurricanes. Wisniewski has been injury-prone during his career but he might be the best all-around defenseman still on the open market. He’s a bit of a journeyman in his 10 year NHL career suiting up for eight different teams, yet he’s still put up decent numbers in that time. His best year came with the Blue Jackets in ’13-’14 when he recorded 51 points for Columbus. Wisniewski’s injury problems and lack of production might keep him off other teams radars for now, however look for him to be a prime candidate for a professional try-out (PTO) this fall. Given what the Bruins currently have and the likelihood that they can get him for cheap, the B’s should absolutely bring Wisniewski in just to see what he can still do.
Kris Russell: Russell has gotten a lot of flack around these parts as being the one guy the B’s should avoid, and I’m not exactly sure why. From what I can tell, his game hinges around shot-blocking and a strong first pass out of the zone, similar to newly-signed Bruin John-Michael Liles. That doesn’t sound so bad to me as I liked what JML brought to the Bruins last year after the trade deadline. However, he is criticized for his unreliable defensive play and that’s one thing that would worry me if they did bring him in. The 28 year old might not be the most polished option, but he can’t be as bad as some of the players the B’s tried last year, cough Matt Irwin cough.
Luke Schenn: The former fifth overall selection in 2008 probably won’t be looking at Boston as a future destination after spending most of his career in hockey crazed cities such as Toronto and Philadelphia, but if it turns out Schenn does enjoy the high-pressure markets, Boston might be the right place for him. He isn’t a player that’s going to wow anybody with his stats but his physical, in-your-face style of play will surely have Sweeney and Neely eyeing his services. With Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid already locked up for a few years, it would only make sense to sign Schenn if Sweeney plans on trading one of the two. This wouldn’t be the most ideal situation for the B’s as they really don’t need another hulking defenseman, however if he is signed, I’d trust him more with the puck on his stick than I would Miller or McQuaid.
Marek Zidlicky: Zidlicky was linked to Boston a few years back as another blue-line addition, but he was ultimately traded to the Red Wings that season. The 38 year old right shot defenseman would make a lot of sense on a one year deal with the B’s since his skill-set along with his age would create a low-cost, high-reward scenario. Zidlicky isn’t the same player he once was but his game also isn’t as diminished as it could be at this point in his career. His skating ability and offensive presence would certainly help a defensive squad often seen out of position, and off the score sheet, and his overall experience could replace that of Dennis Seidenberg, who was bought out last week. Zidlicky’s veteran presence, reliable game, and low cost seems like a great fit for a Bruins team that desperately needs fresh faces on defense.